Sunday

20th Jan 2019

Juncker fund gets political go-ahead

  • French construction site: The fund is due final approval in June (Photo: marcovdz)

The EU's signature plan for a €315bn fund to create jobs took final shape on Thursday (28 May) as negotiators reached a deal on how it should operate and how investment projects should be chosen.

The project – the brainchild of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – represents the focus of EU energies to promote economic growth and tackle record-high unemployment rates.

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"I am very happy and satisfied we reached a deal. Let's get to work and implement this plan as quickly as possible,” said EU budget commissioner Georgieva after the 13 hours of talks while her colleague Jyrki Katainen, in charge of selling the idea to investors, said he was counting on the fund being “up and running” in autumn.

The law to establish the fund was tabled by the commission in January and member states and European Parliament deputies have been tussling ever since over key details such as where the EU money for the fund should come from.

MEPs, who had made veiled threats to de-rail the process during the course of negotiations, welcomed the deal.

“I think it is a very good agreement,” said the head of the economic affairs committee Roberto Gualtieri, while German centre-left deputy Udo Bullmann, one of the parliament’s negotiators, said the EP had strengthened the fund’s “internal structure, governing culture and economic orientation”.

Under the compromise, MEPs will have a say on who will be head and deputy head of the fund; a scoreboard will be set up to make it clear on what criteria a given project was chosen for funding and a set of investment guidelines has been drawn up.

One of the disputed issues was whether nuclear power stations could get money from the Juncker fund, formally known as the European Fund for Strategic Investments.

"We have positive lists," said Bullmann referring to broad investment guidelines, "where we say what kind of energy infrastructure instruments should be foreseen for the future investment. I hardly think nuclear energy subsidies [will] be financed by this fund".

MEPs also managed to reduce - by €1bn - the amount of money taken from the research and infrastructure budgets, by using up unallocated spending left over in 2014 and expected to be left over in 2015.

"I think we did a pretty good job in hindering politicisation and micromanagement," said Bullmann. "Now we need to find the right projects," said EU research commissioner Carlos Moedas.

Under the agreement, payments made by member states towards the fund will not be considered when the commission is looking at the debt rules underpinning the euro.

The political deal must still be formally approved by member states - expected on 19 June - and the parliament as a whole - in a vote on 24 June.

The Juncker Fund is set up with an initial €21bn - from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank - to enable lending to the tune of €63bn.

Private investors are then expected to take the total funding capacity to €315bn. The main idea behind the fund is that it supports projects that would normally be considered too risky.

Katainen, for his part, has been travelling around EU member states to try and drum up interest among investors.

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